I hope this note finds you well.
My Grandmother Taggart was a true old-time person. She was a second generation immigrant from Germany and lived all of her life in rural Arkansas. Born and raised in an area south of Stuttgart, Arkansas, she married into the Taggart family and moved to the White River bottomland east of Augusta during the Depression. She had nine children who survived into adulthood. Her husband, Jim, died in 1947 when I was a year old; at the time she still had three children living at home. As I have told you before, each morning of my early childhood, I had breakfast at home and then scurried out the back door of our house, crossed the feed lot to her house, where she fixed me cinnamon toast.
By this time electricity, propane gas and modern conveniences had made it to our neck of the woods. With the exception of electric lights she held firmly to her old ways of doing things. At our house fifty yards away we had an electric pump that provided water through a faucet in the kitchen. She chose to keep her hand-pump just outside the back door. With each use it had to be primed with a small bucket of water.
On the northeast corner of the house was a large rain barrel set up on six-foot high stilts; it collected the soft water rain from the roof of the house and was used in cleaning the family’s clothes. Just beyond the house, in the side yard, was a large iron pot that she used to do the heavy laundry each Thursday.
A bit farther east of the house was the outhouse with the ever-present Sears & Roebuck catalog; even though the outhouse was moved from time to time, it was kept far enough from the house to keep the ripe smell at bay.
Just to the north of house was the chicken coop – a source of regular amusement for me, my sister and our cousins. Most days of the week we helped her collect eggs. She had each chicken named and, as I remember, they responded to her when she called them by name.
In the house she had a small sitting room with an old style Singer sewing machine. The power for the machine was a metal grate at the base of the machine activated by the back-and-forth movement of her foot and ankle. It sat right next to an old wood stove she used the heat.
As a child the most miraculously room of the house was her kitchen. The pantry was full of Mason jars that got the family through the winter. The summers were spent processing, canning and storing the produce of the large garden the family always had.
In the back corner of the kitchen she had an icebox that was used primarily to store milk and butter.
The activity I most associated with my grandmother cooking at an old cast iron wood-burning cook stove that produced some of the best meals I have ever eaten. Breads baked fresh, meats cooked to perfection, scalloped potatoes, and moist, thick German Chocolate Cake. I remember my mother asking why she didn’t get one of the new gas stoves. Her response pretty well sums up my grandmother’s life: “This old stove is predictable. I know how it works, how long it takes and what the results will be.”
Have a nice journey.